When is the best age for a family portrait session?
Children really do grow up incredibly fast – blink and you’ll have a pre-schooler standing where your tiny newborn once lay. That’s why a comprehensive photographic record is so important to capture those fleeting moments, but there are important considerations for each age and stage.
Parents often ask me when the best age is to have a family portrait. It’s a really difficult question to answer, because you’ll inevitably find your children are also really cute at many ages! Certain ages do lend themselves especially well to being photographed – likewise, some ages are best avoided if possible. I’ve listed below some of the key ages that work well for family photography – which correlate closely with baby milestones.
Our recommendations for which ages work best for family portraits:
For natural newborn photography, I recommend 7-10 days old. For natural photography at home, it’s not necessary to have photographs taken any earlier than that – take the time to allow any jaundice to settle, as well as for your baby to adjust to the world and relax a bit.
Babies tend to then have quite a growth spurt at around two weeks (and some accompanying digestive problems, and cluster feeding). That’s why I suggest having the photographs taken before they’re 10 days old – capturing them in their very tiny newborn phase. It’s not a problem to take the photographs after that 7-10 day window, we just might have a smaller window of opportunity to take the photographs in.
Consider waiting: 3 weeks to 5 weeks old
Your baby will of course still be gorgeous, but he/she will have grown out of that super-tiny newborn phase, and is likely to be cluster-feeding and as mentioned above, likely to go through baby acne and digestive issues. If you can, wait until your baby’s a little older – they won’t change as markedly as they have between being born and 2 weeks old, they’ll just be a little more solid and settled.
Ok, newborns are slightly less tiny and squashy at 6 weeks than when they were born, but if you’ve missed the 7-10 day window, this is your next best bet. By 6 weeks old, they will be a bit more alert, settled and starting to smile – not to mention that sleep will be starting to improve, both for your baby and for you!
Consider waiting: 2 months
Your baby will no doubt still look super-cute, but it’s a slightly in-between age for portraits: not quite a newborn, but also not yet a plumped out baby. If you can, hold out till your baby is 3 months old!
This is a good opportunity for a baby portrait. Babies can smile and laugh, and can usually hold their heads up steadily and do mini push-ups. Three month old babies are starting to roll, and recognise the sound of their parents’ voices – which can be helpful during a portrait session. Babies at this age tend to have more regular sleep patterns too, which makes it easier for you to predict a good start time. They will also start smiling at strangers, and are generally becoming more animated and engaging.
4 months: consider waiting
Babies at this age are often busy with teething, and not at their jolliest. If you can, wait till your baby’s 6 months old. No guarantees that teething and stranger anxiety won’t be issues by then, but your baby will certainly be much more easily distracted and amused by 6 months!
5 months: consider waiting
5 months can be a sweet age as your baby will be just on the cusp of developing the skills outlined below at 6 months – which can be just as adorable in photographs! Just be aware that your baby may be teething hard at five months old.
6 months: sometimes called a ‘sitter session’
Six months is a classic age for a family portrait. Babies are becoming more social, and have a markedly different kind of look from very young babies. Six month old babies enjoy playing with their hands, and will explore toys and other objects – these are great photo opportunities. Your baby is also likely to be sitting at six months, which makes for gorgeous photographs.
7 / 8 months: consider waiting
This can be a difficult phase as separation anxiety can peak, and teething can also be a real problem. That said, if your baby’s relaxed and happy, it can be a lovely age to photograph as babies are often just on the cusp of mastering skills like standing up – those wobbly legs are so gorgeous!
9 / 10 months
This is one of my favourite ages for family portraits. Babies at nine and ten months are crawling, and can often hold themselves up standing if holding onto furniture – or holding onto your hands.
Babies at 9 and 10 months old understand a lot of what’s being said, which can help with calming uncertain babies during a portrait session. At 10 months, your baby may be able to stand momentarily without support, and their personalities will really be coming out.
12 months old / toddlers
Your child will be getting ready to take their first steps, or they might already be walking. Your baby will respond to simple instructions and suggestions, helping to engage your baby throughout the portrait session.
Bandy-legged toddler walking must be one of the cutest things on the planet! This is a lovely age to capture your child’s emerging interests and playing with their favourite toys.
Pre-school and primary school
Your child’s personality will really be developing now – it’s a lovely time to photograph children at this age, and to capture the special bond between you all.
So which age should you choose?
If you’re only ever going to have one family portrait session, I’d recommend a newborn session as this phase is incredibly sweet, or to have a family portrait session at nine or 12 months old when your little one is mastering some adorable skills and his / her personality will be really shining through.
If you’re booking more than one portrait session in a year, I offer a Bump to Baby package (which covers your maternity and newborn portraits).